Why Counseling is Essential in Treating Addiction

You wouldn’t use a Band-Aid to treat a broken leg. There are much deeper problems that need attention, such as the fractured femur, skin breakage and, worst of all, the excruciating pain. It’s a long and involved process to set a cast, but ultimately using the right form of treatment will help the broken bone heal.

Trying to treat addiction without rehab counseling is a lot like using a Band-Aid on a broken leg. It’s not effective in the long term, and it’s certainly not the best treatment.

Addiction is a complicated disease, with physical as well as emotional manifestations. It’s not enough to treat one and ignore the other. Good alcohol and drug rehab treatment programs, like 12 Keys Rehab, will tend to both the physical side effects of withdrawal and fighting addiction as well as counseling to help heal the wounds that can’t been seen—the psychological toll of addiction.

Studies have shown that those who receive counseling are less likely to suffer relapses. Counseling and therapeutic programs help those struggling with addiction to confront the emotions driving them to drugs or alcohol.

Alas, not everyone who needs this help gets it.
addiction counselingFor those who can get help, counseling-focused programs are the best answer. Counseling may include any number of therapeutic options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or group therapy. The key is finding what works for the person addicted to substances and their family, who are also part of the recovery journey.

Here are some of the ways in which counseling is essential to treating addiction.

Dealing With Emotions is Key to a Person’s Success

We all have emotions. Whether we’re happy, sad, angry, frustrated, jubilant or desperate, all of us experience a range of feelings every moment of every day. Sometimes, those emotions can become overwhelming. That is often where addiction takes root.

According to Psychology Today, addiction is often fueled by the desire to feel “normal.” Substances such as drugs or alcohol may be used to achieve that altered state, to escape from the emotions that people feel on a daily basis. People who struggle with addiction numb their hurt or their depression with substances, so that they do not have to deal with their emotions outright. This is one reason why addiction is prevalent in those who have endured a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, a divorce, a war or a natural disaster.

When these emotions are suppressed, they can hurt the person’s psyche. In addition to addiction, not dealing with emotions can lead the person to suffer from:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of unworthiness
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Bouts of intense anger
  • Eating disorders

Drinking and drugs temporarily dull the pain, but in the long term the hurt does not go away. That’s where counseling comes in. Therapy addresses the emotions and circumstances that led to addiction, such as lingering anger toward a spouse who cheated, and helps the person heal.

People undergoing counseling learn to express their feelings rather than push them down inside. Once those feelings have been released, there’s less need to rely on substances to erase the pain, because they are coping rather than hiding. They no longer need to self-medicate.

Tailoring Treatment

Every person is different. Just as you wouldn’t expect every single attendee at a party to enjoy country music, you wouldn’t expect every single client at an alcohol and drug rehab facility to receive the same treatment. Counseling must be tailored to the person in order to be successful. A tough-love approach may work with some clients but not with others. Some may be comfortable in group therapy while others prefer one-on-one counseling. The key is getting to know the clients and figuring out the right therapy for them.

Tailored treatment options should include:

  • One-on-one initial assessments
  • Continued reassessments throughout rehab
  • Group therapy
  • Identifying and addressing potential barriers to improvement
  • Family feedback, when appropriate
  • Activity programs, to keep the brain and body healthy

Interestingly, men with substance-abuse problems are more likely to seek treatment than women, yet women are more likely to achieve long-lasting recovery, because they tend to take part in group therapy. A tailored treatment plan will address concerns about gender differences and what environment each individual is most comfortable with. Studies have shown that women are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs because of problems with their partners or children, a root emotional cause that can be addressed with tailored treatment.

Of course, any well-rounded treatment program will focus on not just the addiction but also the circumstances surrounding it. When seeking treatment, those struggling with addiction need to consider whether they need to address any of the following in their tailored treatment options:

  • Housing and transportation
  • Child care
  • Legal services
  • Financial services
  • Continuing education
  • Mental-health assistance
  • HIV/AIDS services

Focusing on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of addiction counseling that has proven extremely effective. It explores the connections between feelings, behaviors and thoughts, and it helps clients to identify self-destructive behaviors and begin to modify them.

Cognitive behavioral therapy works best when it’s part of a comprehensive counseling program. It teaches clients to:

Should I go to counseling

Studies have found that brain activity of those who undergo cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be changed. That means reactions that the brain once had to stressors can be altered, which, in the case of substance abuse, means retraining the brain to not obsess over alcohol or drugs in any given situation.

CBT also can treat a number of underlying causes for addiction, including:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Psychotic behavior

CBT was actually developed to curb relapses by alcoholics. It was later used to treat cocaine addiction as well. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on developing self-control and a new way of thinking when confronted with a difficult situation. One of the ultimate goals of CBT is to teach those with substance addictions to avoid getting into situations where their will is tested, a long-term strategy that helps long after rehab.

Helping to Avoid Relapse

Narcotics and alcohol hold a powerful sway. Studies have found that between 30 and 70 percent of people with addictions relapse depending on what type of substance they were addicted to. In study after study, researchers have found that counseling is key to avoiding a relapse into alcohol or drug addiction.

Getting clean is the first vital step. After that, the longer you go without abusing any substances, the greater your chance at lasting success. Consider the findings of one survey:

relapse statisticsStaying accountable with a counselor or group also has other benefits. Any time there’s a major life change, a person is vulnerable to relapse. Therapists can keep an eye out for signs of relapse during particularly difficult times, such as these:

  • The death of a loved one
  • The end of a marriage or major relationship
  • A child leaving home
  • A job loss
  • Health problems
  • Financial problems

Even happy occasions can trigger a relapse. Alcohol often flows freely at weddings, birthday parties, even baseball games. Counseling can offer strategies to employ during situations when alcohol or drugs are available. Readying for these circumstances ahead of time can help lessen the chance of relapse.

Still, addiction is like any disease, whether it’s diabetes, hypertension or cancer. Those who suffer from it are always vulnerable to relapse, and vigilance must be continued over the long term.

Staying Accountable

Counseling is basically an opportunity to check in. When someone is struggling, no matter what problem they are dealing with, it helps to have a guiding hand on their shoulder. Counselors have been trained to recognize signs of relapse, and a weekly, monthly or yearly check-in can help monitor for these signs, which may include:

  • Exhibiting changes in personality, sleep or eating patterns
  • Avoiding friends or family
  • Shirking responsibilities
  • Perfectionism
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Excessive anxiety
  • Hanging out with former or current substance abusers

Often family members will realize there is a problem but will not understand these are signs of a potential relapse. Addiction counselors are trained to recognize and respond to such behavior. Long after rehab has been completed, many therapists continue to monitor their former clients’ progress. This provides reassurance in other ways, too.

People who struggle with addiction may be reluctant to discuss their problems with those who have not experienced substance abuse. They don’t want to be judged, pitied or unfairly accused of relapsing. Having an outside, independent voice in the form of a counselor may actually prove to be a relief. While friends and family often tell them what they want to hear, counselors will tell them what they need to hear, which is crucial to staying on the path to lifelong sobriety.

Positive Outcomes of Counseling

Counseling is a cornerstone to treating a drug or alcohol problem. After counseling, someone in recovery will:

  • Develop a network of supportive therapists
  • Increase self-esteem
  • Establish a more positive thought process
  • Learn to cope with peer pressure
  • Renew regular activities

With time and successful treatment, counseling will end, and the person will be ready to face life by themselves. They’ll never really be alone, however. They can always call on the coping strategies they’ve learned in therapy. To achieve a life lasting sobriety through counseling and other holistic therapies, contact 12 Keys Rehab.

The Addiction Blog